Global leaders were encouraged yesterday by emerging economies led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to stay united in combatting the pandemic and allow an affordable, accessible and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and President Rodrigo Duterte spearheaded the call for an inclusive access to the vaccine.
Muhyiddin opened the virtual 27th APEC Economic Leaders’ meeting on Friday by urging member economies to help the world recover from the effects of the health crisis.
“As a grouping whose economies constitute about 60 percent of the global economy, APEC assumes a central role in spearheading post-pandemic economic recovery,” Muhyiddin said.
President Duterte also urged stronger cooperation to ensure universal vaccine access and for APEC leaders to renew their commitment to a free, open and rules-based multilateral trading system.
During the meeting, Mr. Duterte cited the crucial role of the 21-nation organization in promoting economic growth and prosperity in the Pacific Rim region over the past decades.
The 21 member-economies of APEC are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States of America and Vietnam.
The President added APEC will play an important role in the region’s post pandemic recovery efforts and in achieving sustained and inclusive growth.
“We aim for a comprehensive recovery with no one left behind. This can only be done through deeper engagement with the international community, especially with close partners in the Pacific Rim region,” the President noted.
President Duterte joined counterparts in the first ever virtual APEC meeting which was chaired by Malaysia.
During his speech, Mr. Duterte also called APEC economies to strengthen partnerships and ensure the unimpeded flow of medical supplies.
APEC bares 2040 vision
The Chief Executive, with his APEC counterparts, endorsed the Putrajaya Vision 2040 which committed APEC member economies to deepen regional economic integration, address income inequalities within and between countries and enhance cooperation.
“The APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 gives us renewed confidence in our collective ability to build back better healthier, and more prosperous societies. Let us join hands, as we have always done, to make this vision a reality,” Mr. Duterte said.
The APEC Economic Leaders also adopted the 2020 Kuala Lumpur Declaration which highlighted key imperatives on combatting and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19, improving the narrative of trade and investment, inclusive economic participation through digital economy and technology, driving innovative and inclusive sustainability, and strengthening stakeholders engagement.
Giving the public unfettered flow of information is also the key to effective response and mitigation efforts, President Duterte said.
In this regard, he welcomed Malaysia’s initiative to establish the COVID-Live online portal aimed at sharing best practices among member economies.
Putrajaya Vision promised cooperation to build an open, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific region.
In a statement, the economic grouping vowed to work together to achieve a free, open, fair and non-discriminatory trade and investment environment.
The bloc also highlighted the need to pursue multilateralism to counter rising unilateralism and protectionism and has thrown its support to the WTO to deliver a well-functioning multilateral trading system.
Competitive prices possible
With more manufacturers racing to develop a cure, a government official disclosed the possibility of competitive prices for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said prospects of reduced costs of the anti-COVID shots will be due to the high demand for vaccines which are already eyed by many countries.
“This is similar to that of some medicines where prices will vary. It’s possible that the prices for COVID-19 vaccine will be competitive,” he said, noting that aside from the government the private sectors may also buy their own supplies.
Lopez said that although not yet final, the allocated budget for the procurement of the finalized vaccines may possibly be at around P20 billion which are still subject for further discussions led by vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez.
Nonetheless, he assured that as mandated by the government, Filipinos in poor communities will access free vaccines.
On the other hand, he said the Philippine International Trading Center (PITC) will not be the sole agency responsible for importations amid woes initially expressed by some lawmakers due to previous cases of funds said to be ‘sleeping’ in the state institution.
No need for auction
“The PITC is only one of those that will buy the vaccines…once a vaccine has already been approved by experts, there will be no more bidding”, he explained.
As previously said by officials among the eyed vaccine manufacturers include Sinovac and Sinopharm from China, Russia’s Sputnik V, the United States’ Moderna and AstraZeneca from the United Kingdom (UK) among others.
On Friday, top government executives including Galvez, Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin met with the President of AstraZeneca Philippines Lotis Ramin to discuss further agreements over their developed vaccine.
Other countries, meanwhile, have already expressed their intention to provide supply for the Philippines as previously confirmed by some envoys.
To date, the Philippines has exceeded the 415,000-mark of COVID-19 cases with recoveries of more than 375,000 and a death toll at over 8,000.
with Gabbie Parlade and Raffy Ayeng